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Long before obesity became a national issue, Carol Trench had an answer for fixing fast food that also was nutritious: the microwave oven.

A longtime home economics teacher at Richfield High School, Trench published a cookbook, "Microwave Mastery," that showed how to zap easy and delicious meals low in fat and calories. It was one of several ways in her career that Trench showed eating healthfully didn't have to be difficult.

Trench, 84, died Friday at the N.C. Little Hospice in Edina after a long battle with colon cancer. She had been retired for 20 years and this month marked her 62nd wedding anniversary with husband, James, a retired attorney from the Hennepin County public defender's office.

"I still have people who come up to me and say they loved her classes," said her son Mike, of Richfield. "Her philosophy was to learn, and once you've learned, teach. And once you teach, support that with whatever you've got."

Trench was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Washburn High School. After a stint in nursing school, she went to the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1950 with a degree in dietetics.

Trench worked for a few years in test kitchens for Minnegasco and showed audiences, mostly women, how to cook with gas appliances. After time off to raise her family, she returned to the university in 1967 for an education degree.

For 23 years she taught home economics in Richfield schools, starting at East Junior High School before moving to the high school. She also taught occasionally at Byerly's and the University of Minnesota, and took classes from chefs such as Cajun specialist Paul Prudhomme.

She became intrigued with the new microwave ovens and made cooking with them a cottage industry. After experimenting with many recipes, she pursued doing the cookbook with her son Bob's help.

"Microwave Mastery" came out in 1988 and has sold thousands in the years since. It was especially popular with school districts and cooking classes.

"I don't know the final numbers, but it went through two printings," said Bob Trench, of Minnetonka.

Trench taught microwave cooking "Mic-It" classes and put microwaves in two food labs. Students competed to convert traditional recipes into microwave dishes. In 1985, the Chicago Tribune credited Trench's use of microwave ovens in home ec as one reason why Richfield High won an Award of Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.

After retiring in 1991, Trench indulged in two hobbies, photography and golf. Her pictures of monarch butterflies were exhibited and featured in books. She typically golfed at least 100 rounds a year before she got sick. Even on chemotherapy last year, Trench hit the links 40 times and played until November, Mike Trench said.

Besides her husband and sons, Trench is survived by a daughter, Terri Miniutti of Minnetonka; a brother, Jack Coan, of Los Angeles; and five grandchildren. Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 4557 Colfax Av. S., Minneapolis, with visitation an hour previous.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455